Monday, November 19, 2007

The Helpful Angel Archetype

The Bitch post stirred up a few comments, and here's my take on the helpful Angel, aided and abetted by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, that wise storyteller and author of Women who Run with the Wolves, who calls it the "Great Healer" archetype.

I spent a number of years at home with my children when they were young and needy, and having been brought up to be a caretaker of others, eldest of eight, I became wedded to the "Little Mother" or helpful angel archetype from a young age.

Once I became a mother, however, the nature of the post being 24-7, quickly exhausted my initial loving soul-store, and I saw my flip side take over. Scary stuff, when you're in charge of vulnerable little people, and you've never been so angry before. I began to seek out any wisdom or therapy or guidance I could find.

Many of my women friends in peri-menopause have expressed a longing to get away, to take a sabbatical, to take off for more than a few days, to try and find themselves, not knowing where they have misplaced their sense of self. But being moms and central to the home, it seems impossible, we feel guilty to feel this way, and yet trapped.

Here is what Pinkola Estes says about how a woman knows she has to return to her wild instinctual nature (she calls it returning home):

"They know when they are overdue for home. Their bodies are in the here and now, but their minds are far, far away. They are dying for new life. They are panting for the sea. They are living just for next month, just till this semester is past, can't wait till winter is finally over so they can feel alive again, just waiting for a mystically assigned date somewhere in the future when they will be free to do some wondrous thing. They think they will die if they don't... you fill in the blank.

There is angst. There is bereftness. there is wistfulness. There is longing.... yet women continue at their day-to-day routines, looking sheepish, acting guilty and smirky. "Yes, yes, yes I know,' they say. "I should but, but, but.... (my kids need this, my kids need that)

An incompletely initiated woman in this depleted state erroneously thinks she is deriving more spiritual credit by staying than she thinks she will gain by going. Others are caught up in....working hard and ever harder to prove that they are acceptable, that they are good people.

....Let us clarify that the going home is many different things to many different women....there are many ways to go home; many are mundane, some are divine. ...I caution you, the exact placement of the aperture to home changes from time to time, so its location may be different this month than last.

Rereading passages of books and single poems that have touched them. spending even a few minutes hear a river, a stream, a creek. Lying on the ground in dappled light. Being with a love done without kids around. Sitting on the porch shelling something, knitting something, peeling something. Walking or driving for an hour, any direction, then returning. Getting on any bus, destination unknown. Making drums while listening to music. Greeting sunrise. Driving out to where the city lights do not interfere with the night sky. Praying. A special friend. Sitting by a bridge with legs dangling over. Holding an infant. Sitting by a window in a cafe and writing. Sitting in a circle of trees. Drying hair in the sun. Putting hands in a rain barrel, Potting plants, being sure to get hands very muddy. Beholding beauty, grace, the touching frailty of human beings.

So it is not necessarily an overland and arduous journey to go home, yet I do not want to make it seem that it is simplistic, for there is much resistance to going home no matter if it be easy or hard.

....the great healer archetype carries wisdom, goodness, knowing, caregiving and all the other things associated with a healer...but beyond that, it exerts a hindering influence on our lives. Women's 'heal everything, fix everything' compulsion is a major entrapment constructed by the requirements placed upon us by our own cultures....

... no woman can emanate an archetype continuously. We are not meant to be 'ever-able, all giving, eternally energetic.' She needs to learn to say "Halt" and "Stop the music", and of course mean it.

A woman has to go away and be with herself and look into how she came to be trapped in an archetype to begin with. The basic wild instinct that determines 'only this far and no farther, only this much and no more' must be retrieved and developed. That is how a woman keeps her bearings.

So women who are tired, temporarily sick of the world, but afraid to take time off, wake up already!"

from Woman who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes.



Kikipotamus said...

That is one of my favourite books. What fantastic insight...that the coming home doesn't have to mean ditching the family and joining a commune in Oregon. You can come home to yourself with small sacred acts of self care every day.

bella said...

I've not read this book, though it has sat on my shelf for years.
After reading this, today I will crack open the pages.